It’s only July but I have to put the rest of the books of 2012 on notice. You’re gonna have to work really hard to knock The Age of Miracles from the ‘Most Favorite Novel of the Year’ spot.
Holy shit, I fell fast and hard for Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel about a young girl, her family, and an event that could spell the end of the world.
Julia is just eleven when the slowing begins. It seems the Earth has slipped off its rotation and extra minute are pouring into the day. People immediately lose their shit, crying about the apocalypse. The sunrise and sunset has become unpredictable. Daylight can last for 12, 15, 18 hours at a time. The government doesn’t know what the hell to do. There’s a great chasm between people who live ‘by the clock’ — those who conduct their lives according to what the clock says — and the ‘real timers’ — those who conduct their lives according to the rising and setting of the sun.
But the slowing is the just the awful situation for Julia’s coming of age story. While we get a lot of fascinating and thought-provoking information about the slowing, this is really about Julia walking that difficult line between being a little kid and being a teenager (or, tween technically). She’s starting to discover the giddy pleasure of getting attention from your Number 1 Crush (in her case a skateboarding kid named Seth), and the aching loneliness that comes when your BFF decides that forever is a lot shorter than you think.
Here’s is what I love so much about Walker’s book it shows that life goes on. Life always goes on.
We all know those assholes who get on Twitter or Facebook and chide those people who are super excited about The Superbowl or The Oscar. They’re the assholes who say things like “How can you be excited about a game when there are people starving/dying/being raped/ Somewhere.” It’s as though our lives are supposed to stop in the face of overwhelming tragedy. But they don’t. Life goes on.
Julia’s story here in The Age of Miracles shows us that even when the birds have died out and the bugs overrun the Earth, and you can’t grow plants outside of a greenhouse and the sun will fry you dead, life goes on. There’s still a cute boy on the bus, and the mean girl on the playground, and piano lessons and your parents’ weird relationship.
I loved every thing about this one — the stuff about the slowing and the government’s policies which prompted this line:
“It requires a certain kind of bravery, I suppose, to choose the status quo. There’s a certain boldness to inaction.”
I loved Julia’s story, and her parents’ reaction to the slowing. I loved the battle between real-timers and clockers. I loved that Julia tells the story of being eleven into twelve from sometime in the future so we know the Earth survives for a little while.
And I really loved how it reminded me in such a good way of Kevin Brockmeier’s short story “The Ceiling”, one of my top-ten all time favorite short stories, ever.
The Age of Miracles is a good’un folks, believe the hype.